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How to Engage an Expired Listing

Written by on Thursday, 02 July 2009 7:00 pm

If you’re a listing Agent, the two biggest questions you face are: Who do I call? and Where can I obtain Seller information? If you’re working to convert expired listings, the answers are right at your fingertips.

Finding expired listings

Follow these steps:

  • Ready the daily MLS hot sheet, where each day most MLS systems post newly expired listings under the category, “expired listings.”

  • Search the MLS file by entering “expired” as your search parameter.

  • See if your market’s MLS system is among the few that allow Agents to identify in advance the date listings are set to expire. Most MLS systems block an Agent’s ability to see when another Agent’s listing will expire; some do not. If your MLS provides the expiration date, you can print information on properties that are due to expire within the next few days and be prepared to move when the time arrives. Don’t jump the gun, though.

Let listings expire before declaring them “dead”

I admit that I’m not a fan of Agents being able to see in advance when a listing will expire. Access to too much information is bad for several reasons:

  • Knowing the expiration date can be detrimental to Sellers; when Agents know that a listing is about to expire, showings diminish. For one thing, Agents deem the property “picked over”. Also, they sometimes hold off showing it to prospective Buyer clients, hoping that by waiting they can win the listing and therefore represent both the Seller and the Buyer.

  • Knowing the expiration date can be tempting to some Agents. Contacting a Seller in advance of a listing expiration is a clear violation of the code of ethics for Realtors, but, unfortunately, that doesn’t stop some Agents who wander into the gray area when they are desperate for a listing. The vast majority of MLS systems block Agents from viewing the expired before its time, but when the date is revealed, a few Agents use the information and lower the standard of ethics for the whole industry.

Keep an eye on listings that are about to expire and be ready to move quickly to contact the owners, but wait until the expiration date arrives before taking action.

Treating expired listings as high-probability leads

With the Seller’s information in hand, you’re ready to proceed with what I call a high-probability lead.

Leads come from many sources: Internet inquiries, ad calls, sign calls, and cold calls. Some deliver possible leads; others deliver probable leads. The difference lies in the likelihood that the leads will convert to business.

  • Possible leads convert less than half the time

  • Probable leads convert far more often.

Obviously, it’s most efficient to work probable leads, and it’s hard to find a more probable lead than the owner of a home with an expired listing. The owner has demonstrated the desire or need to sell and the existence of a problem you can help solve. The problem, of course, is that, after waiting out the entire listing period, the owner’s home didn’t sell. The problem, in most owners’ eyes, is that the previous Agent didn’t perform. More than half of the time, these homes go right back on the market with a different Agent ­ why not you?

Engaging an expired listing

Working expired listings is an all-or-nothing game. You can’t proceed in a half-hearted, here-today-gone-tomorrow fashion. Either you work expired listings -- every day and on a consistent basis - or you don’t. You can’t try to work expireds for a few days when you find yourself low on listings, and then quit for a few weeks only to return to the effort again later. There’s no such thing as a kind-of-expired Agent. If you want to capitalize by converting expired listings, be ready to make working expired listings your way of business life.

As a new Agent, my work life revolved around expireds. I learned that in any given month most listing expirations occurred over the course of a few days, and that is still the case today. Up to a third of all the listings that expire occur over the last few days of the month and the first day of the new month. If you are going to work expireds, get ready to make those days very long work days. I followed this routine:

I’d arrive at the office around 6:00 a.m. and immediately print out the expired listings. Some days I’d end up with more than a hundred listings on my desk.

At 6:30 a.m. one of my staff members, who usually arrived at 7:30 a.m., came in to start researching phone numbers that weren’t listed on the MLS printout. We searched four different sources for missing numbers. We first searched the Coles directory. Then we would move on to the MLS Metro-scan search. If we still did not acquire the phone number, we would go to the internet through Yahoo and people search. Finally, we would package the rest up for the title company to search the tax records and have back in to us before 9AM.

I have also called the previous Agent at times to ask for the Seller’s phone number and offer them some of the commission if they give it to me. The reason is if I get it and few other Agents have it in the market I have a higher probability of securing the listing.

Based on gut instinct, market knowledge, and the information contained in the MLS printout, I’d sort the properties, quickly determining why each didn’t sell and putting the ones that offered the highest probability of listing conversion and sale on top. Also, I’d move promising properties located in areas where I really wanted listings to the top of the list.

I would then practice my scripts and dialogues, spending time to anticipate the objections I might hear from the Seller and practicing how I’d overcome the barrier. I knew before placing a phone call to the owner that my objective was to move beyond any objections and to secure an appointment.

After a half-hour’s practice, by 7:45 I was on the phone, aiming to reach people before they went to work and before other Agents began to make contact later in the morning. Today, your schedule is dictated by limitations stipulated by state and national No Call Laws.

If you cannot secure the phone number because of the No Call laws or you simply cannot find the number, go to the door directly. Most people are better face-to-face anyway. You will see fewer people but be more effective because you are face-to-face.

My goal was to be the first to get through to the owner of every expired listing, but obviously that isn’t always possible, especially on a day when the pile of listing printouts numbers a hundred or more.

Once I got through, scheduled an appointment, and established a good connection and sense of trust, I’d warn the owners about what to expect over the course of the 24-48 hours, suggesting that to avoid interruptions they could unplug their phone for the day. I knew that if the owner could dodge the calls over the first day or two following the listing expiration, most Agents would quit trying to get through.

The key to success with expired listings is to work them consistently and with commitment. Most Agents who “work” expireds do so only at the end of the month and, even then, only sporadically. I never took a vacation at the end of the month, because I didn’t want to miss the flood of expireds when they came through. And, in between, I also watched for the three, four, or five listings that expired on a daily basis. Only a small group of Agents work expireds as a way of life, but I can vouch for the fact that that those who do build great businesses.

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  About the author, Dirk Zeller

Individual news stories are based upon the opinions of the writer and does not reflect the opinion of Realty Times.